Trump Criticizes Michigan Governor Whitmer; Rally attendees sing ‘lock her up’

6/6 © Reuters. US President Donald Trump reacts as he leaves after his campaign rally at Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, Georgia, USA 2/6

By Jeff Mason and Michael Martina

JANESVILLE, Wis./WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump, who has played down the coronavirus pandemic from its inception, criticized Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Saturday for her policies to curb the outbreak, provoking shouts of “lock her up” from a multitude of demonstrations.

Trump made the remarks during the first stop of a three-day trip through critical critical states, some of which he won in 2016, but which polls show support Democratic rival Joe Biden this year.

The president held large demonstrations in Wisconsin and Michigan despite the increase in coronavirus cases in both states. Supporters who attended the rallies did not maintain social distance. Some wore masks, others didn’t.

At a rally in Muskegon, Michigan, Trump attacked Whitmer multiple times, criticizing the state’s rules to stop the spread of the coronavirus, calling it “dishonest” and lightly making a right-wing plot uncovered by the FBI to kidnap her.

“They said it was threatened,” Trump said. “And she blamed me.” The president has criticized Whitmer, who was running for Biden’s vice president, for months.

“Hopefully you will send her packing very soon,” he said.

The crowd’s cry of “Lock her up!” Referring to Whitmer, he repeated the chants that Trump supporters often direct to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in 2016.

Whitmer responded on Twitter to the episode. “This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family and other government officials in danger as we try to save the lives of our compatriots,” he wrote.

Lee Chatfield, the Republican Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, also commented on Twitter: “Trump didn’t yell ‘lock her up’ on our governor. But others did and it was wrong. She was literally a target. Debate the differences. Let’s go. win the elections. But not that. “

Michigan added 1,791 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the state’s seven-day total to more than 10,000 cases, a new record, according to the state health department. Wisconsin reported 3,861 new COVID cases on Friday, also a new record. Trump won both states four years ago, but is behind Biden in them this year.

Biden, a former vice president, has criticized Trump for his response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 219,000 people in the United States, the highest death toll in the world. He said in a statement Saturday that he planned to unite the country to fight the virus if he won.

“All that President Trump is offering to the people of Michigan is more lies and distractions: no plans to control the virus, no strategy to get our economy out of this recession, no vision to unite the country,” Biden said.

Trump sought to reverse that criticism Saturday by falsely saying that his rival would impede recovery from the outbreak.

“Biden will shut down the country, delay the vaccine and prolong the pandemic,” Trump said at both rallies.

Trump’s advisers have long viewed Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Pennsylvania, as key to his reelection chances. The president is also playing defense in traditional Republican strongholds, including Arizona, where he plans to campaign Monday, and Georgia, where he campaigned Friday night.

He plans to campaign in Nevada, a state Clinton won in 2016, on Sunday.

BEHIND THE SURVEYS

Trump is lagging in opinion polls https://polling.reuters.com and the latest figures from his campaign show he is also lagging behind in fundraising as the race intensifies. Early voting is breaking records, with more than 26 million Americans already casting their votes.

Biden, who has stepped up travel in recent weeks after keeping a shortened schedule due to the pandemic, remained in his home state of Delaware on Saturday.

Her running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, is also avoiding travel for a few days after an aide caught COVID-19.

Harris, speaking Saturday during a virtual fundraiser, said Trump had displayed “reckless disregard for human life” in his response to the pandemic.

She said a Biden-Harris administration would have a vaccine distribution plan that takes into account “the most glaring and long-standing racial disparities that have wreaked havoc in particular communities.”

US presidential elections are determined by electoral votes, allocated to US states and territories based largely on their populations, rather than a count of the popular vote across the country. Candidates must obtain 270 of the 538 electoral votes to win.

Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes, Michigan has 16, and Arizona has 11. Nevada has six electoral votes.

Capturing those votes will come down in part to convincing voters who is best placed to respond to the ongoing health crisis.

Trump, who routinely avoids masking, repeated Saturday that the country is turning the corner of the disease, shortly after the number of cases in the United States surpassed 8 million, increasing by 1 million in less than one month.